- Home Article - Breathe easy – rethinking the dumbbell pullover for endurance
Free Shipping For Cyber Week!
Free Shipping For Cyber Week!
Most endurance runners and cyclists I know have no interest in doing weights exercises, so it’s hard to see them getting interested in an exercise that’s usually associated with bodybuilders who want to build the top-inner quadrant of their pectoral muscles (their words – not scientific fact!). But what if I told you that there is a way to do the dumbbell pullover that will help your oxygen uptake, improve your core technique (stronger posture for improved breathing) and release thoracic tension?
An old body building theory states that dumbbell pullovers are a ‘finishing’ exercise done after other chest exercises to work the ‘upper’ chest. Sports medicine doctor and sports conditioning consultant, Dr Deepak Hiwale argues that the exercise has nothing to do with muscle development of the chest. Instead, it helps you expand your rib cage and stretch your abdominals. Doing the exercise with Dr Hiwale’s modifications makes the pullover even more applicable this way, even though the weight you can move tends to go down because you are taking out any swinging and much of the assistance from the shoulders and upper back. In fact, this exercise should be considered part of your training for the core.
This is how a pullover is typically done:
Dr Hiwale has identified a new way to do the dumbbell pullover so it’s more applicable for sports – especially endurance sports. As is often the case, I’ve acted as a human guinea pig (but with better toilet training) and found that this exercise also relieves some of the typical stiffness that comes from sedentary habits such as sitting at a desk or driving, while also having a great benefit for throwing actions and heavy functional lifting (e.g. picking up rocks or boxes, deadlifting, etc.).
Dr Hiwale also argues that while his version of the exercise helps stretch and induce isometric contraction of your abdominal muscles, and it can help expand the ribcage, especially in young athletes (before the ribs fuse with the sternum in the middle). For those of us who stopped growing decades ago, it still has the benefit of direct work on the intercostal muscles – those muscles in between the ribs that enable us to inhale (external intercostals) and exhale (internal intercostals).
This revise version of the pullover in effect increases the capacity of your thoracic cavity, which Dr Hiwale argues would help cardiovascular endurance in the long run. The ‘lifting up’ of the rib cage will also improve posture, which is important for the prevention of injury and soreness, plus good posture will help hold off fatigue.
Here is the revised version of the exercise. Again, note that if you’ve ever done pullovers the traditional way, then you’ll have to swallow some pride and select a smaller dumbbell than you’re used to.
A good suggestion is to alternate this with HANGING LEG RAISES using a similar breathing and abdominal activation sequence – exhale at the start and tense your abdominals, then raise the legs, have a short pause and hold at the top. Lower the legs and take 1-2 deep breaths before repeating.